Vascular malformations are congenital (occurring at birth) vascular (pertaining to blood vessels) anomalies. They occur due to an abnormality in the development of blood vessels in the foetus, leading to the formation of clusters of blood vessels that commonly appear as lesions on the skin. They can also form in mucous membranes, such as in the mouth or eyelids, and in muscles or internal organs like the brain and heart.
Vascular malformations can be classified depending on the blood vessel affected:
Vascular malformations form in small vessels but not in large vessels or the heart.
Vascular malformations are further divided depending on the amount of blood flow within the lesion:
Vascular malformations are usually visible at birth as soft, lumpy coloured marks on the skin, but some can develop during childhood and teenage years. They may grow in size as the child grows and puts on weight, when the area is injured, or when hormone levels rise during puberty, pregnancy or with the use of contraceptive pills. The symptoms depend on the size and location of the malformation, and may include:
Vascular malformations may be diagnosed by a thorough physical examination and through imaging tests that include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) and ultrasonography. Your child’s doctor may also recommend an angiography, in which blood vessels are viewed by injecting a dye through them and taking images using X-rays.
Vascular malformations that do not cause any problems are carefully observed. Your child’s doctor may also recommend the use of compression garments to stop blood pooling, promote blood circulation and relieve discomfort at swollen areas. Medication may be prescribed to prevent blood clot formation. Your child’s doctor may suggest other therapeutic procedures like:
These treatments may be performed in combinations to alleviate the symptoms and improve your child’s quality of life.